by Craig Shelburne
K.T. Oslin, one of country music’s most interesting and eloquent voices of the 1980s, died on Monday (December 21). She was 78.
According to MusicRow, Oslin was diagnosed with COVID-19, but it is unclear whether this contributed to her death on Monday morning (Dec. 21). Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she had been living in an assisted-living facility since 2016.
Oslin was born as Kay Toinette Oslin on May 15, 1942, in Crossett, Arkansas. She was 45 years old when she landed her breakthrough single with “80’s Ladies” in 1987. Recording for RCA, she placed seven Top 10 country singles, including four that went to No. 1. She wrote or co-wrote all of them. She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
Her chart-topping singles include “Do Ya’,” “I’ll Always Come Back,” “Hold Me” and “Come Next Monday.” She also landed a role in the 1993 film, The Thing Called Love. She essentially retired in the early 1990s, making only occasional appearances. As she told CMT.com in 2011, “I asked my people, ’Do I have enough money to quit right now?’ and they said, ’Yeah.’ I said, ’Well, then, I quit!’”
Oslin won the 1987 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female with “80’s Ladies.” The following year, she picked up two more for “Hold Me,” winning Best Country Vocal Performance, Female, and Best Country Song.
Although the single peaked at No. 7, it remained a signature. Recalling the song’s origins, she told CMT.com, “It took me about a year to write it. I wrote it a little piece at a time. It was an idea I had. I thought it would be a song that would be great to do live in concert. I thought it was one of those show pieces. I never dreamed or thought it would be a single. It got good response from the initial foray, so we put it out as a single. It obviously struck a nerve.”
Her cinematic and highly creative music videos came at a time when music videos were given prominent placement on TNN and CMT. For some projects, she threaded together the narratives, while in “Come Next Monday,” she dressed up as the bride of Frankenstein. That single topped the chart in 1990, and she released a career compilation titled Greatest Hits: Songs from an Aging Sex Bomb in 1993.
She picked up a 1988 CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year, snapping a four-year winning streak by Reba McEntire. “80’s Ladies” also won the award for Song of the Year. As a songwriter, she placed cuts with the Judds (“Old Pictures”) and Gail Davies (“’Round the Clock Lovin’”). She was named 1988, 1989 and 1991 SESAC Songwriter of the Year.
The Academy of Country Music presented Oslin with four trophies: 1987’s Top New Female Vocalist and Video of the Year for “80’s Ladies,” and 1988’s Top Female Vocalist and Album of the Year for This Woman. That album, and her debut album (80’s Ladies) were certified platinum. Her 1990 album, Love in a Small Town, reached gold. Always a compelling songwriter, her late career albums like My Roots are Showing… and Live Close By, Visit Often, are some of her most satisfying works.
“It’s nice that anybody remembers because it’s been a long, long time,” Oslin told CMT.com in 2011, prior to giving a rare performance in Nashville. “I’d like to be remembered as someone who stuck to their guns and did it the way they thought. I tried to do my very best every time out of the chute.”